Sophomore defensive back Justus Parker made it his mission to overcome the challenges of not getting a collegiate scholarship offer while he was in high school. He decided to make his mark through conditioning and training at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin.
Parker went to La Vernia High School, a small 4A high school, where he played on both sides of the ball, including wide receiver, running back and tight end positions. His school went to the playoffs, and he helped get his team to a 12-2 record his junior year and a 10-2 record his senior year, according to Tech Athletics. In 2015, he played in 10 games with Texas Lutheran with 48 tackles, 36 solo tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, one forced and recovered fumble, and two interceptions.
He also earned first team All-Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference honors, one of the two freshmen in the conference to be named to the defensive first team, according to Tech Athletics.
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said Parker has earned every rep he has received.
“Yeah, his story is pretty incredible,” Kingsbury said. “He was down there in Texas Lutheran in Seguin, and came up here and has worked really hard and started at the very bottom, and to see him go out there and make plays is just: It’s inspiring, really, because he had every reason to give up or quit. So, really proud of him and how far he’s come.”
On National Signing Day, Parker did not sign with any school after he received preferred walk-on offers from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Abilene Christian and Montana State. Parker said he decided to go to Texas Lutheran, 20 minutes away from his home in La Vernia,
Parker said not receiving a scholarship offer somewhat discouraged him. Parker thought he may just not be ready for Division I football and decided to go to Texas Lutheran, where his height grew by around two inches and his weight increased by about 15 pounds.
“As a high school kid coming out of high school and everything you want is a scholarship offer. To not get a scholarship offer, it does diminish you, but at the same time it pisses you off,” Parker said. “So, my whole thought process in it was ‘I’m going to go there and get better.’ I got the whole college experience. I ran zone concepts I never ran in high school and gained a lot of knowledge about the game.”
Parker entered as a walk-on transfer to Tech in the 2016 season, where he was redshirted and sat out because of NCAA’s transfer policies, according to Tech Athletics.
Defensive coordinator David Gibbs became a role model for Parker, as Gibbs was also a walk-on for the University of Colorado in 1987. Parker said Gibbs has been a key factor in his success, but his high school coach also pushed him to be better.
“It dates back to my high school days,” Parker said. “My coach really put into me that you’ve got to work hard and go get everything that you want to get in life. So, just walking on here and all of my hard work’s giving me opportunities, and it’s starting to pay off right now.”
The first time Parker played for Tech was against Eastern Washington in the season opener on Saturday, Sept. 2, at Jones AT&T Stadium. In that game, he recorded one solo tackle, according to Tech Athletics. Against Arizona State on Saturday, Sept. 16, he registered one pass breakup and against Houston on Saturday, Sept. 23, he tallied one quarterback hurry and one solo tackle.
However, against Kansas, Parker let loose and recorded one solo tackle, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery for 20 yards, one interception for 25 yards and one pass breakup, according to Tech Athletics.
“For me, for a walk-on, it’s surreal,” Parker said. “It’s everything you’ve worked for. It’s everything that I’ve been trying to go and accomplish. Just to see that everything is paying off right now, it’s a good thing, but it’s also a big sigh of relief.”
Parker’s forced fumble, fumble recovery and interception in the same game is something junior defensive back Jah’Shawn Johnson said he has never seen since coming to Tech.
“I mean, I had a couple of opportunities in the game, as well, and I dropped my interception, and the fumble got overturned,” Johnson said. “I was kind of joking with him on the sideline, I was like, ‘should have been my play’ and things, but he’s doing a great job since fall camp started, actually in the spring. He had some big plays in the spring, and he’s just been flying around. It was great to see him make some plays out there in the game.”
Kingsbury said he has taken notice to Parker’s ability and said Parker plays like he has nothing to lose.
“He works out with a chip on his shoulder,” Kingsbury said. “You watch the way he carries himself out on the field, he will go up to any of our top star players and get that little extra shove or that little extra bump. He’s not going to back down from anybody, and that’s what you want out there.”